Perhaps surprisingly, New Zealand Rabbits are the very first truly American breed of rabbits. Their genesis is tied much more to Belgian Hares than it is to rabbits from New Zealand.
The very first New Zealands were Reds. We’ve chronicled the early history of New Zealand Red Rabbits here. It is also the history of New Zealand Whites, as they are nothing more than albino sports of the early New Zealand Reds.
Since New Zealands are as American as sliced bread, why are they called ‘New Zealand Rabbits?’
A printed article about New Zealand Red Rabbits circulated
in 1918 about rabbits imported from New Zealand to California. The article
connected them to the newly developing breed of rabbits known as New Zealands.
While the alleged imports may or may not have contributed to the breed that would bear their name, the establishment of the New Zealand Rabbit is now understood to be a completely American story, since the breed arose in multiple locations concurrently across the USA, with or without any New Zealand imports.
New Zealand Whites first showed up in the nestbox of a New Zealand Red doe in 1917. Four albino bunnies showed up in the same litter of seven kits.
The fact that one was a buck and three were does must have looked to the breeder, Mr. William Preshaw, like a gold-embossed invitation for the development of a new variety - White New Zealands.
Two years later, in 1919, Mr. Preshaw showed his "White
New Zealands" at the Stockton, California Fair. They were met with huge interest. By 1920,
Mr. Preshaw was advertising "Pure White New Zealand Rabbits" for sale.
The rabbits bore only slight resemblance to the New Zealand White Rabbits of the Twenty-First Century. In 1920, New Zealand Whites were stocky and white, but they tended to pose in a modified arch much like their progenitors, the Belgian hares.
Black New Zealands first occurred around 1924. However, today’s New Zealand Blacks were bred by Dr. Alfred DeCastro with Black New Zealand sports from California breeders. The variety was accepted by the ARBA in 1958.
Broken New Zealands are the newest recognized variety of New Zealands in the USA. As of February, 2010, New Zealand varieties are:
It is our understanding that Blue New Zealands are being developed through a Certificate of Development from the ARBA.
Nesting Box Materials: Pine Shavings, Hay, Straw
Today, New Zealand Rabbits have been bred nearly to
perfection. They give other breeds very stiff competition for the coveted Best
In Show award.
New Zealands have enjoyed rising popularity since the mid 1920’s. That’s a lot of years of breeding, line-breeding and at times, in-breeding.
As a result, traits like...
have been carefully maximized and built in to many commercial herds. Some commercial operations look for the addition of hybrid vigor by crossing their NZW’s with a second breed, or even a third, utilizing Californians, or Altex, a new breed designed to be a terminal cross within a commercial herd. (Altex are not recognized by the ARBA.)
Over the years, some recessive disorders have arisen in New Zealands. See Autosomal Recessive Disorders to learn more.
On the other hand, the same frequency of breeding can lend itself to test-breeding and eliminating the same recessive disorders that may have been uncovered. Nevertheless, if you’re thinking of raising meat rabbits or starting a commercial rabbit herd, you may wish to ask questions about any recessive disorders in the rabbits you’re considering for purchase.
Other than ensuring genetically excellent
foundation stock, you can hardly go wrong in choosing New Zealand Rabbits as a
meat rabbit or as a show breed.
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New Zealand Fawns
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Why I raise New Zealand Rabbits
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Oscar, our New Zealand Red
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